Kournikova advances to semifinals

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The Independent Online

Anna Kournikova looks like she might finally break through for her first career WTA title.

Anna Kournikova looks like she might finally break through for her first career WTA title.

Kournikova used late service breaks in each of the last two sets for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over France's Nathalie Tauziat on Friday in the quarterfinals of the $535,000 Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California.

Early on, Kournikova looked nothing like the player who ousted No. 2-ranked Lindsay Davenport earlier in the week in three sets. But she rebounded to match Tauziat stroke for stroke in the last two sets.

"I have a good history of losing the first set, then winning the next two," Kournikova said. "I get into the match pretty slow. But once I got into the match, I think I was playing pretty well."

Kournikova, 19, advanced to Saturday's semifinals where she'll face Monica Seles, who staved off one match point and won the final three points in the third-set tiebreak against Sandrine Testud for 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win on Friday night.

After losing the first set, the No. 4-ranked Seles took nine of the next 11 games to win the second set and take a 3-0 lead in the third.

Testud, ranked 11th, came back to take a 6-5 lead, but blew a match point in the 12th game as Seles forced the tiebreak.

After trailing 3-1 in the tiebreak, Testud went in front 5-4 and had a chance to serve out the match. Instead, she double faulted, then hit a forehand into the net to put Seles ahead 6-5. Seles closed out the match when Testud hit a backhand wide.

Kournikova, still searching for her first title, is playing in her 70th career WTA event.

"(Journalists) are the only ones who are making pressure," said Kournikova, responding to whether she feels pressure because she has yet to win a tournament.

"It's always been more important to have a ranking, good results than to win a tournament," she said.

Kournikova said the win was more satisfying because it was against Tauziat. The French player questioned why Kournikova gets so much attention compared to other more successful players on the Tour.

"She has made some strange remarks about me," Kournikova said, "so that even makes it better."

Said Tauziat: "I like Anna. I just said the truth."

With the players on serve in the second set, the first service break opportunity of the set came in the 10th game with Tauziat serving.

After wasting one break chance, Kournikova took the set when Tauziat's backhand volley landed long. The eighth-ranked Tauziat, 32, stood motionless at the net, staring at the baseline, then glaring at the chair umpire.

The third set was a mirror image of the second as Kournikova staved off one break chance to hold her serve for a 6-5 lead.

After winning the first three points on Tauziat's serve, Kournikova closed the match as Tauziat's backhand volley sailed long.

"I think I played really good in the first set," Tauziat said. "But today, she didn't miss too much."

Kournikova, who has reached five semifinals this year, beat Tauziat for the first time in four career meetings.

Tauziat, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 3 earlier this season, was hurt by her serve. Tauziat made just 61 percent of her first serves and finished with nine double faults.

Results from the $535,000 Acura Classic Sanex WTA Tour hard-court tournament:

Singles - Quarterfinals

Anna Kournikova, Russia, def Nathalie Tauziat (6), France, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. Monica Seles (4), United States, def. Sandrine Testud (8), France, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Doubles - Quarterfinals

Lisa Raymond, United States, and Rennae Stubbs (1), Australia, def. Kimberly Po, United States, and Anne-Gaelle Sidot, France, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4. Lindsay Davenport, United States, and Anna Kournikova, Russia, def. Jennifer Capriati and Amy Frazier, United States, 6-4, 6-2.